Annika Samuels earned her BS degree in industrial engineering in 2003, and obtained her MBA from the University at Buffalo in 2006. She is currently the Director of Diversity and Inclusion at National Fuel Gas Distribution Corporation.
Why did you choose UB, and how did your education prepare you for a successful career at National Fuel?
I chose UB because they had a reputable industrial engineering department and I wanted to pursue a career that would utilize my math and analytical skills while helping people. I was always intrigued by ergonomics, facility design, and methods to create efficient systems that integrate workers, machines, materials, information and energy to make a product or provide a service.
What clubs or organizations were you a part of during your time at UB? How were they formative?
The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and the Cora P Maloney programs such as Collegiate Science Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) were an integral part of my collegiate experience. My study buddies who later became my lifelong friends were all made through countless hours together during these programs. These friends are my engineering colleagues and family.
Tell us about your current job and what you like most about it.
As the director of diversity and inclusion at National Fuel, I champion the development of the company’s initiatives in diversifying the employee group, supplier group, and internal and external communication.
What lessons and skills have you learned along the way that have helped prepare you for your current role?
Engineering taught me great problem solving skills and how to examine processes for improvement. In my current role, it is critical that we measure the effectiveness of our initiatives in a quantitative and qualitative manner so that we can achieve the results that we are hoping for.
What made you join National Fuel and what motivates you to come to work every day?
I joined National Fuel because they are a stable company with a long history. However, I’m motivated to come to work every day because I work for an organization that really cares about their employees and doing the right thing. Like everyone else, we are not perfect. However, we are committed to learning and pursuing excellence.
Do you have some advice for other aspiring black engineers?
My advice for other aspiring black engineers is to connect with your professors, alumni, your network, and pursue good internships at great companies.
Looking back, is there anything that you wish you’d known earlier on?
I wish I understood the impact of networking especially as you pursue your first internships and jobs.
What advice do you have for UB students who will soon embark on their careers in a highly competitive workforce, and for those who have recently graduated?
My advice for new grads was given to me by my mentor: 1) Find a mentor at the university and at your company; 2) Keep your performance appraisals and work goals in front of you every day so that you can see it every day and never keep your eyes off the prize; and 3) your manager has many assignments so volunteer to help them with their projects.